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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

India: the West - Gujarat and the Rann of Kutch

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Western India. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document that will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose content supersedes any information contained here.

TRAVEL TO INDIA: This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird and starts and ends in Ahmedabad, India.

ENTERING INDIA: United States citizens will need a valid passport and a tourist visa. These can be obtained from the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. or Consulate in New York. Visas can also be obtained through a visa service, such as CIBT. As a general rule, your passport should be valid for six months after you plan to return from India.

MAPS AND COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can view maps of India in the University of Texas series here. You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on India here.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommend taking an anti-malarial drug when visiting India. The drug of choice for India is Lariam (mefloquine). Further, the CDC currently recommends the following vaccines: Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG); typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region; and as needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults. As some of these inoculations cannot be given concurrently, you should contact your doctor about when to start your treatment. You can review the latest CDC advisories here.

CLIMATE: The temperatures throughout this tour will not vary very much. Daytime temperatures will range from about 78-95°F. However, the early mornings and late afternoons can be cool, with temperatures perhaps dropping to 60°F. Moreover, since we’ll be exploring some areas in open-topped jeeps, the wind can make it feel quite cold. A warm sweater and even a warm hat and gloves should prove useful for some of the early morning game drives. Gujarat is an arid state; it is unlikely to rain, and the humidity is comfortably low throughout this tour.

PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: Given that midday temperatures are high, we will make a number of early starts and will aim to be out in the field for dawn most days. This will often entail leaving our accommodation at 5:45 or 6:00 am. On a couple of days, we will start even earlier, possibly at 5:00. Most days we should finish at dusk, around 6:30 pm, and we usually manage to have about a one-hour break before the checklist and dinner. There may be one or two days when we return after dusk, thus shortening our break before dinner.

In the Little Rann of Kutch, our early morning drives will typically last three or four hours, after which we will return to the lodge for breakfast and a midday break. There will be an optional further excursion in the afternoon. The similar safaris at Gir National Park will also start in the early morning. Snacks will be available before we leave the hotel. The game drives here usually last between four and five hours, after which we will return to the hotel for a late breakfast or brunch. On several days, there will be a further game drive in the afternoon.

There is a reasonable amount of walking on this tour, although none of it is particularly strenuous. We are not allowed to walk inside Gir Sanctuary (there are lions and leopards!), and so we use open-topped jeeps to explore the reserve. We’ll use similar vehicles to explore the Little Rann of Kutch, but since there are no dangerous large animals here, we are also allowed to walk about, as we are at parts of Velavadar (Black Buck) National Park and at the sites we will visit around Bhuj.

ACCOMMODATION: In Jamnagar we stay in a good hotel close to both the international and domestic airports. At Bhavnagar we will spend one night at a reasonable hotel, the best in the city; the rooms are clean and have private facilities, including showers. There is no accommodation inside Gir Lion Sanctuary, so we will stay outside the reserve at a recently built safari camp in large walk-in tents on a permanent concrete base, with electricity, large beds, tables and chairs, and private bathrooms with a western toilet, shower, and sink. The rooms in our hotel in Jamnagar have air conditioning, a ceiling fan, and private bathrooms with western toilets and showers with hot water. All the rooms are clean, but it can be noisy. In the Bhuj area we stay in a small, clean guesthouse owned and run by our local guide; all the rooms have two beds, and the showers and toilets are in the central courtyard. He is planning to build more rooms here, but if construction hasn’t finished, several of us might have to stay in a simple hotel about six miles away, with private bathrooms (no running hot water) and air conditioning; the rooms are fairly clean but not up to the normal standard of a WINGS tour. Even if the group occupies both lodgings, we will still have all meals together. Our accommodation at Dasada is a hotel with individual cottages scattered around the attractive grounds, all with private bathrooms and western toilets; the rooms are clean, with air conditioning and (in a few rooms) ceiling fans.

MEALS: Throughout the tour we are served a wide variety of good quality Indian food, always including a good selection of vegetarian dishes; salads and salad garnishes should be declined or left on the edge of your plate. In some of the places that we stay, meals are buffet-style with several different dishes available, while in other places set meals are provided. “Western” food is not available at most of the places we will stay, but if a buffet is served, it normally includes a western-style dish or two. If you require western-style food and cannot eat Indian food, please advise the WINGS office in advance and the leader once you are on the tour.

ALCOHOL: Gujarat is a dry state. Alcohol cannot be drunk in public and is not freely available. Tourists can obtain a liquor permit from the Indian Consulate at the same time as they apply for an Indian visa. Even with a permit you will be limited to purchasing two or three bottles of beer at a time, and drinking alcohol is not permitted in public places, including hotel restaurants. We have found that most people do not bother obtaining a liquor permit.

DRESS: Dress is informal throughout. Laundry facilities are available at Rann Riders in Dasada, at our hotel in Jamnagar, and at the safari camp at Gir.

TRANSPORT: We will use a fleet of probably three small but comfortable vehicles, with three passengers plus the driver in each. In the Little Rann of Kutch and again in the Gir Lion Sanctuary and National Park, we will use a fleet of open-topped jeeps.

SMOKING: Smoking is not allowed in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, we ask that you do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS AND SUNBIRD TOURS: Please take a moment to read the About WINGS Tours portion of our website. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours, and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: A more complete General Information for Tours to Western India will be sent to each registrant on receipt of their booking. Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Updated: February 2014